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How to get carrot seeds

 
hunter holman
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Wondering how and if anyone has got there own carrot seed from their own garden
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Carrots don't seed until their second year of growth, this is why most folks don't save carrot seed.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I grow my own carrot seed.

The process is about as follows:

  • Plant carrots at the normal time.
  • Thin and then cull, cull, cull, to select for plants that germinate quickly and grow vigorously.
  • Cull during the growing season to remove plants that are highly affected by disease or pests.
  • Dig the tubers. Cull roots that are susceptible to nematodes, wire-worms, rot, cracking or other problems.
  • Select for roots that match the shape and size that work in my garden: Short, fat roots which are easy to dig in spite of my hard clayish soil.
  • Cut off a small piece of the root and taste it to make sure that it tastes good.
  • Store the roots in a root-pit overwinter and plant out in very early spring. I space at about 1 foot. I set the tops about 3" deeper than they originally grew, that helps to anchor the plant in the soil better and minimize the wind blowing the roots out of the ground. The root can be laid horizontally. No need to dig a super deep hole.
  • Trellis the plants in some way to keep the wind from blowing them out of the ground. I like California Weave style. Strings between t-posts.
  • Cull male-sterile plants.
  • Harvest seed. I cut off whole seed heads and let them dry in the shed for a few weeks.
  • Thresh. I do this either with gloved hands, or by walking on the seed-heads which are on a tarp or in a garbage can.
  • Screen to mostly separate seeds from stalks.
  • Winnow


  • Cull slow growing plants:


    Select for tubers that work in my garden:


    A patch of flowering carrots. Note the strings used as a trellis.


    Here's an example of a male sterile carrot flower. They get culled in my garden.


    And an example of a healthy carrot flower. Notice that they look male!


    On many species I am perfectly happy using hybrids as parents. However I do not intentionally use hybrids in a carrot breeding project because the plants are male sterile and thus can't produce seeds unless there is pollen from a fertile variety in the vicinity: such as the weed Queen Anne's Lace. So I recommend using only open pollinated varieties. Because pollination is quadratic in nature, there is little danger of cross-pollination (of OP varieties) from Queen Anne's Lace as long as the area in the immediate vicinity is kept clean. A few percentage of off-types in a home garden or small farm is not a big deal. They are human scale operations that can easily deal with odd things.



     
    Kate Muller
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    Can you tell me more about root pits?
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Kate Muller wrote:Can you tell me more about root pits?


    I store carrots and other biennial seed crops in root pits, because they have been the most reliable method for me. They keep the roots moisturized and above freezing. I dig root pits 18" deep in late fall, about Halloween. Then I put the roots or stems I am overwintering into them and pile the dirt back on top, so the vegetables get about 18" of soil over them, which is about the deepest that frost reaches in this area. If I was more organized, I might dig a permanent pit that I could fill with sand instead of silt/clay...

    The ground was so hard this year, that I dug the pit by making multiple passes with the roto-tiller and then throwing the dirt out and making more passes. This year I am overwintering dahlias, turnips, kohlrabi, bok choi, beets, and maybe other things. I often store potatoes, carrots, and swiss chard. I mark the pit with steel posts, so that I can find the vegetables in the spring.

    Possible problems with root pits is that the frost might go deeper than expected. Some of the vegetables might rot. Animals might dig into the pit and eat some things.

    Root pit with huge kohlrabi stems.


    One kohlrabi stem prior to going into the pit. Wish me luck... It's my first time attempting to grow kohlrabi seed.







     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Joseph, I'm wondering if you are storing all these plants with this method, solely so that you can get seed, or do you store veggies for consumption in this way also? I have heard of root pits, and such burial methods, but I have not experimented with it yet. I was thinking of lining some pits with straw to try this method. Unfortunately, here the pits would have to be substantially deeper to protect from max frost potential, or lots of bales would need to be put on top to protect the storage area.

    Good Luck with your experimental seed saving of Kohlrabi !
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Roberto:

    For as long as I can remember, my family has stored food in this type of root-pit: potatoes, carrots, and beets. My grandfather had a permanent pit dug, and he put the vegetables into it in 5 gallon buckets. He also stored apples and turnips in his pit. He covered his with wood, polystyrene, and straw. It is me that is out of order by using a root-pit to store vegetables for seed production...
     
    Miles Flansburg
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    Joseph, can you make the point about crossing with queen anne's lace a little clearer for me? What happens to the carrots or the seeds in that situation? Thanks !
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    my family has stored food in this type of root-pit: potatoes, carrots, and beets.
    Yes, I understand the existing technology of pit storage for root crops. Something I am considering, if I can't get to building the cellar this upcoming growing season.

    It is me that is out of order by using a root-pit to store vegetables for seed production..
    ha ha. not out of order, just stacking functions and utilizing an existing technology to a new end.

    I guess my question is: do you, personally, also store veggies for consumption in this way, or are you just utilizing this technique for storing biennials for seed production? I'm wondering specifically of bok choy and chard. Do you store any fall crops of these for consumption, or is it just for seed? I've just never heard of these being stored for consumption in this way. It seems that what you said, you just use this method for seed production, but I just wanted to clarify. Sorry if this is redundant.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Miles Flansburg wrote:Joseph, can you make the point about crossing with queen anne's lace a little clearer for me? What happens to the carrots or the seeds in that situation? Thanks !


    When carrots cross with Queen Anne's Lace, the roots of the offspring end up being too fibrous to eat. They are typically thin and white. So it's immediately obvious when pulled that something is wrong. They may bolt the first year.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Roberto pokachinni wrote:do you, personally, also store veggies for consumption in this way, or are you just utilizing this technique for storing biennials for seed production? I'm wondering specifically of bok choy and chard. Do you store any fall crops of these for consumption, or is it just for seed? I've just never heard of these being stored for consumption in this way. It seems that what you said, you just use this method for seed production, but I just wanted to clarify. Sorry if this is redundant.


    I store potatoes, carrots, beets, dahlias, sunroots, and turnips in a root pit for eating later. The bok choi and kohlrabi are for seed only. I don't expect to eat either of those. I often eat greens first thing in the spring from the Swiss chard. (New growth greens, not the ones that grew last year and were cut off before overwintering.) They get growing much quicker in the spring due to having so much stored energy.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Thanks for clarifying Joseph.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    that helps to anchor the plant in the soil better and minimize the wind blowing the roots out of the ground.


    Trellis the plants in some way to keep the wind from blowing them out of the ground.


    You must live in a windy place, Joseph. However the method of reburying the carrot, and the short length of your carrot due to dealing with your clay, both might lend to this need. The one time that I saved carrot seed (and parsnip seed), we left some roots of the crop in the ground without harvesting, for a second year. In this case, we were not able to select for taste, size, and shape (as you are able to-which is awesome), but went with general characteristics of what our harvest from the existing seed stock were.

    Selecting for Storage: Some of my friends who have a large organic operation and produce their own biennial seed, also select for storage. They leave some of their root in the roothouse longer, and taste them to see which store the longest and best. Also when they are storing the root overwinter to plant again the next year for seed, they make sure they taste these roots to make sure they were again selected for how well they stored.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    We are fortunate that we do not have Queen Anne's lace here. Joseph, do you know what the distance is for carrot pollen to travel (by wind) or is it insect pollinated? Ants?, Bees? What distance to you try to maintain? Dp you only seed one variety each year to ensure that you are selecting for one carrot type?

    I know our bushes of seed crops were an ecosystem unto themselves, thriving with many species of insects and spiders. It was worth it to have these seed plants in the garden just for the 'perennial' and shrub effect boosting the diversity!
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I don't have a lot of wind here. A thunderstorm from time to time. When I was planting the roots vertical with the tops even with the soil, I used to bump the plants, or weed rough around them and they would pop out of the ground... What a disappointment!!! My carrots don't regrow strong anchoring roots after being dug, just fine weak roots. Carrots are not reliably winter-hardy here. I can overwinter parsnip roots in the garden, and overwintering-in-place is my preferred method of growing parsnip seeds. I can do selection for taste without digging them, by cutting off a piece of the shoulder. And can do remedial selection for size based on the diameter of the top. I can get some idea of shape by pulling the soil back from around the root. Before harvesting seed from any particular plant, I can pull the plant and only save seeds from those that match the shape/size that I want. The plant has already shed pollen into the patch, but by only saving seed from plants with roots that match my selection criteria, I can move the population in the direction of my preferred shape and size.

    Yup. I should screen for good taste both before and after storage.

    In theory, Queen Anne's lace grows in my area, but I haven't noticed any on my farm, or in the immediately surrounding areas.

    Carrots are insect pollinated: The flowers are highly attractive to bees, wasps, ants, flies, beetles, etc. For photos of some of them from my garden last summer check out: http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/40/47686 Carrots are definitely worth growing for the sake of the feeding the bugs.

    Pollination is quadratic in nature. What that means in practice is that pollination is highly localized. Plants are mostly self-pollinated, or pollinated by their closest neighbors... Sure, occasionally some pollen comes in from far away, but it has been highly diluted by the time it gets here, and it is swamped out by the huge amount of local pollen. To put it in perspective, the mathematics works out somewhat as follows: if two plants are growing a foot apart, they may have a 50% chance of cross pollinating. If they are 2 feet apart the chances drop to 25%. If they are 3 feet apart the chances drop to 11%. If they are 10 feet apart the chances drop to 1%. By thirty feet the chances of cross pollination are 1 in 1000. I'd feel perfectly fine with my seed growing if only one carrot seed in 1000 was off type. Perhaps that doesn't work for The Mega Corporation, but it works just fine for me as a small-scale farmer that harvests by hand. By 100 feet the chances of cross pollination are 1 in 10,000.

    It's important to make sure that no Queen Anne's Lace is growing directly inside the carrot patch, and in the immediate vicinity, but what's growing in the neighborhood in general doesn't have much of an impact... Unless... Supposing that the carrots I am trying to get seeds from are F1 hybrids, and therefore don't produce any pollen of their own? Then, all pollen would come from other places, such as from the Queen Anne's Lace growing in the neighborhood. I think that most times when people have horrible contamination in their attempts to grow carrot seed that it is due to this phenomena. When I originally started growing carrot seed, about 70% of my plants were male-sterile. I was horrified when I discovered that. So these days I screen routinely to eliminate plants that don't make pollen.

    I only grow landrace carrots. I do not grow varieties of carrots. My carrots are promiscuously pollinated, and descended from dozens of varieties. With other plants, I grow 'varieties' which I think of as 'sister lines'... For example with squash, I might plant a 150 foot row of small squash and then continue the row with 150 feet of medium-sized squash. Then I save the seeds from the first 50 feet of row as "small", and the seed from the last 50 feet as "medium". The 200 feet of row in the middle are used as food. There is little cross pollination between the 'small' variety and the 'medium' variety. If a crossed plant shows up, then I cull the off-type fruits, either during the growing season, or after harvest.


     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Carrots are insect pollinated: The flowers are highly attractive to bees, wasps, ants, flies, beetles, etc. For photos of some of them from my garden last summer check out: http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/40/47686 Carrots are definitely worth growing for the sake of the feeding the bugs.


    Yes. Certainly. I think that the whole family of carrot relatives are extremely beneficial to have in the garden for the purpose of beneficial insect habitat. I highly encourage a few 'weeds', and especially volunteer yarrow, for this and other reasons as well.

    You are a wealth of great information, Joseph. Your observations are keen. I'm super glad that you are a part of this forum.

    I will be part of a local seed initiative in this valley. The larger organic farmers that I mentioned have a lot of varieties of roots and other biennials that they are trying to get other people to save seed from. They do NOT do this promiscuously, and so I will be growing out only one variety of carrot for them (and the project), as well as a beet, a turnip, etc. They are only doing heritage heirloom varieties of crops-some with interesting colors. We will be building a local seed bank, of locally adapted varieties. I will try to get them online with the idea of landrace promiscuity, as I think it has merit! They actually had two of their carrot groups cross (despite alternating covering their rows with remay to allow only one to be pollinated at a time), which created a variety of carrot with the colors of the two varieties together in one carrot, which they now have selected and grow as their own variety, so there is hope that they will be interested in the promiscuity line of thought.

    Thanks again for your clarification, you information, and your time.
     
    John Weiland
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    Re-bumping this thread to ask a related question. What is a good way to get biennial seed from brassicas that don't have a typical storage organ (root, hypocotyl, etc.)? Since more and more of purchased seed is F1 hybrids, we want to start selecting our own adapted landrace versions of kale and possibly other brassicas for the garden. Carrots and beets (and Swiss chard if we decided to go that route) we are accustomed to....just re-plant some of the sprouting roots that look good coming out of the root cellar from the year before. For parsnips, we just leave some in the ground....by some miracle they don't totally die out from freezing even when un-mulched. But our kale has never come back from the roots (northern Minnesota Red River Valley clay) and typically does not flower, even though some of the planted mustards do flower. The mustard seed is hardy and we get plenty of volunteers of these in the following year.

    So for seed production, can one just harvest the kale plant roots in late fall and root cellar them for the next year for bolting and seed production? If there is already another thread on this, please direct me to that link. Thanks.
     
    Ian Rule
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    Joseph L - Winner of todays Radicool ribbon~

    I had so many annoyed confusions about my carrot experiments last year, and you done near cleared em all up!

    We're lucky to have thee Milord, keep up the killer work/photo documentation! Thanks!
     
    Wendy Fisher
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    Joseph Lofthouse said more than I ever could (*wild applause*) but I just want to throw it out there that carrot flowers are, to me, amazingly pretty. Does anyone know if carrots will self-sow if you just leave the flowers in place and let them die off at their own pace? It seems to me that they would.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Hi John Weiland:
    What is a good way to get biennial seed from brassicas that don't have a typical storage organ (root, hypocotyl, etc.)?
    You can either pot up the plant, and bring it to your roothouse for the season, or you can dig the plant up whole with the roots, everything bare, and hang it in your roothouse. Either way, replant in the spring outdoors for seed.

    Hi Wendy Fisher:
    Does anyone know if carrots will self-sow if you just leave the flowers in place and let them die off at their own pace? It seems to me that they would.
    Yes. In many places you find the common volunteer Queen Anne's Lace 'weed', this is the feral stray carrot seed that has gone multigenerationally back to it's wilder form.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    John Weiland wrote:What is a good way to get biennial seed from brassicas that don't have a typical storage organ (root, hypocotyl, etc.)? [...] So for seed production, can one just harvest the kale plant roots in late fall and root cellar them for the next year for bolting and seed production?


    I haven't grown Kale for seed. My strategy for most crops that are too tender to overwinter in the ground is to pull them, cut off the leaves, and store them in a root-pit until spring. Then replant. If I had more resources available, I might try heavy mulching in the fall, or even burying the stems in-place in sand or dirt in late fall.

    I have noticed that younger plants tend to be more winter hardy than older plants... So turnips planted in the fall that get golf ball sized are more likely to survive the winter than turnips planted in mid-summer that go into winter softball-sized. I've noticed that same general trend in other crops such as favas, peas, carrots, swiss chard, etc... Perhaps kale is similar.

     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Wendy Fisher wrote:Does anyone know if carrots will self-sow if you just leave the flowers in place and let them die off at their own pace? It seems to me that they would.


    I've had a few years of troubled family life recently. One of the joys of the carrot project, is that they kept right on producing food, and making seed with little supervision from me. They haven't reverted to Queen Anne's lace type. In my garden I wouldn't expect it cause there is so little QAL in this area.

    My best volunteer crop though are the turnips. I grew a crop of turnip seed in 2010, and they have been self-seeding ever since. The roots are winter-hardy now, even when sitting on the surface of the soil.



     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    My best volunteer crop though are the turnips. I grew a crop of turnip seed in 2010, and they have been self-seeding ever since. The roots are winter-hardy now, even when sitting on the surface of the soil.
    I have a friend with a homestead between Terrace, and Hazelton B.C., where he grows a garden but also has a survival garden in the feral pasture next to it. In the survival garden are edible weeds and self seeding domestic plants, including Turnips, and J-Chokes, both foods that he does not particularly enjoy the flavor of but he has been propagating the area with minimal maintenance just in case he needs to have it.
     
    John Weiland
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    Much thanks for the suggestions here for kale root storage and second year bolting. Will do some later-season planting and give it a try for next year.
     
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